Meet the First 2018 Candidate to Run on a Federal Jobs Guarantee

David Dayen, The Nation

Winfield’s slogan for his campaign is “Guaranteed Jobs, Fair Wages.” He appears to be the first candidate in the 2018 cycle to run on a federal jobs guarantee for every able-bodied American adult who wants one. Winfield, a philosophy professor at the University of Georgia for 35 years and the author of The Just Economy, will kick off his campaign the weekend before the Martin Luther King holiday, and that’s no accidental timing. King endorsed “employment for everyone in need of a job” during the civil-rights era, and his widow Coretta Scott King co-founded the National Campaign for Full Employment in 1974.

The district, Georgia’s 10th, is currently represented by Republican Jody Hice. He didn’t have an opponent in 2016, which was true for a shocking number of Republican officeholders in the state. And Trump easily carried the district. But this era of resistance has brought out a new crop of Democrats. Most foreground the need to reverse the president’s destructive policies. Few speak about comprehensive policy frameworks that would truly change America. For this reason, Richard Dien Winfield’s longshot bid is drawing attention from academics and activists who have longed for big ideas.

“A new social bill of rights could help transform the political and economic discussions we’re having in this country,” said Mark Paul, a visiting fellow with the Roosevelt Institute who has co-authored some of the major job-guarantee studies. “Richard Dien Winfield could deliver model legislation, setting a viable path towards achieving full employment and economic security for all.”

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Georgia's 10th Congressional District: Democratic candidate Richard Dien Winfield

Ashlyn Webb

Winfield said President Donald Trump’s election was a factor in his decision to start his campaign.

“I feel we are entering a crisis where our democracy is in jeopardy. It’s in jeopardy partly because none of the parties really addressed major appreciations in our constitution which lays out political and civil rights which gives our household and social rights,” Winfield said.

If you could say anything to your community, what would it be?

“You have a historic opportunity that you haven’t had before. There hasn’t been a candidate that has offered this bold, social rights agenda that guarantees jobs like I’m pushing for,” Winfield said. “We can be pioneers here in the tenth district that could grab the attention of the nation and change the direction of our political discourse.”

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Hundreds of Athenians March for Their Lives

Dan Jackson

Richard Winfield, another Democratic congressional candidate, said the demonstration at the Arch was the largest he’s seen in 35 years living in Athens. “It was good to see all the local Democratic candidates who were supporting some kind of sensible gun control—Kelly [Girtz], Deborah Gonzalez and Jonathan Wallace, [state Senate candidate] Dawn Johnson..."

Winfield advanced some specific ideas for gun regulation that met with loud approval from the crowd, including requiring liability insurance for gun owners and ammunition purchasers. “We make car owners purchase insurance, and guns are certainly at least as deadly as automobiles,” he said. He also suggested that Congress pass laws forbidding gun ownership for anyone with a history of mental illness or terrorism, a gun buyback program similar to Australia’s and a complete ban on the possession of private guns in public places.

“I hope this demonstration is not just a repeat of all the other demonstrations in the past. There’s a much greater sense of impatience with legislators’ failure to take action,” Winfield said. “Those failures will have considerable consequence for legislators who continue to accept payment from the NRA.”

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Winfield For the Win

Jurnee Louder | Odyssey Media Group, Clarke Central High School

From a young age, Winfield understood the need for activism. Growing up in the ‘60s, an era dominated by social movements, Winfield saw the beginnings of revolution, and even joined in. While attending Roslin High School, he wrote controversial editorials for the school newspaper. He worked in Franklin, Louisiana with the Southern Tenant Farmers’ Union.

Winfield announced his intention to run for Congress to his family around Thanksgiving in 2016. “I think they weren’t expecting it. Maybe they were a little skeptical. But, I think they became more and more excited by the idea as time went on,” Winfield said. “They’re giving me tremendous support.”

According to the Hatch Act, state employees cannot run for national or state-level offices. So, as a UGA employee, Winfield went on unpaid leave on Jan. 2.

“For the average employee, if you’re going to run seriously, you need to do it full time, which means you need to take off work. You have no income, no benefits and in most cases, you can’t expect to get your job back,” Winfield said. “I have no salary now. But, I have the one advantage — I’m on unpaid leave, so if I lose, I can go back to my job. I’m not at the point now where I want to stop teaching.”

But, Winfield and his team are dedicated to sticking with the campaign regardless of setbacks or workloads.

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A Bernie-styled progressive challenges uber-conservative Georgia Republican

Greg Bluestein, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Richard Dien Winfield, a University of Georgia philosophy professor, formally entered the race last week at an event headlined by one-time Senate candidate Jim Barksdale.

In a lengthy statement, Winfield channeled Bernie Sanders with a plan he said would “allow us to participate as equals in our democracy.”

It starts with a federal job guarantee – modeled after New Deal programs - that would employ millions with a mission to build new schools and affordable housing, expand public transit and lay broadband internet lines.
The government would guarantee affordable housing and eliminate utility runoffs, evictions and foreclosures. College tuition would be free and fulltime students would receive stipends. So would child-care and elder-care facilities.

And he’d support a “legal care for all” program – a single-payer health system – to cover personal criminal and civil legal representation to “defend ourselves against sexual harassment, discrimination or corporate abuse.”

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UGA Prof Richard Winfield Might Be America's Most Progressive Congressional Candidate

Blake Aued, The Flagpole

Winfield sees several benefits to a New Deal-style government jobs program. It will staunch the rise in inequality and eliminate the fear of joblessness, which he blames for the hatred of immigrants and minorities in the Trump era and the rise of ethnic white nationalism both in the U.S. and around the globe. And it would pressure the private sector into raising wages when companies are competing with government for workers, rather than workers competing for jobs. Workers would never again be afraid to leave their jobs, veterans would know a job is waiting for them when their service ends, undocumented immigrants could come out of the shadows, businesses would benefit from increased consumer spending, and poverty would become a thing of the past.

Jim Barksdale, the 2016 U.S. Senate nominee who introduced Winfield, warned the audience of about 100 that he’d be labeled an “impractical idealist.” So were Martin Luther King Jr. and Jesus, Barksdale said. “My message for you, Richard, and everyone here is don’t believe it,” he said.

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UGA philosophy professor launches congressional campaign

Erin Schilling, The Red & Black

United States Senate candidate Jim Barksdale spoke before Winfield, showing support for Winfield’s campaign and his focus on guaranteed federal jobs.

“We have to do the work to turn this country around and have it established on the practical, realistic view that people need jobs so they can support their families and achieve their life’s objectives because that’s what this country’s about,” Barksdale said.

Nnenne Onyioha-Clayton emceed the event and Athens businessman Charles Knox introduced Winfield to the podium. “Let me tell you about the man, the father, the husband,” Knox said. “A man who does not judge people by the color of their skin but only by the character they display.”

“One of my political science professors invited us to a town hall for extra credit and that’s when I first saw him,” Daniel said. “When he discussed his platform, I immediately walked up after and said, ‘when can I volunteer?’”

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